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Texas High School Football: Alice trying to catch up after late start

Quinton Martinez Corpus Christi Caller
Times

The challenges keep coming in Alice.

But athletic director Kyle Atwood and the Coyotes are ready to take them on full steam ahead.

The Coyotes were suited up and ready to practice Wednesday when a thunderstorm rolled over Alice High School.

Lightning lingered and the practice was delayed for more than an hour. In eight days of practices the Coyotes have dealt with poor weather multiple times, as Alice tries to catch up to its District 15-4A Division I brethren who have played two or three games and have nearly a month head start.

The Alice ISD school board gave Alice's fall sports programs the go-ahead to start practice Sept. 7 after testing all athletes, coaches, trainers and sponsors for COVID-19. Other schools in the district began practice in August and have been playing since Aug. 28.

"We feel good about what our players were able to retain as far as our philosophies," Atwood said. "This has been a strange year for all of us. Not starting when we normally start. Not having midnight madness, which is something I've done all nine years as a head coach. It has been a very different year for us.

"I've been extremely proud of our kids, to continue getting on our Zoom links. They knew other teams had the opportunity to practice and play. For them to work out on their own, which is different than structured team workouts, was great. We are in catch-up mode as we speak."

But Alice players and coaches alike are happy to have the opportunity to play at all. Nearby Ben Bolt canceled its fall sports and Rio Hondo in the Rio Grande Valley was the latest school district to pull the plug on Wednesday.

"It was relieving to finally start," senior quarterback Jacob Guzman said. "Everyone else in the district has started. We are going to be behind but at the rate we are at right now skill-wise, practice-wise for not having had as many practices, we are not in a bad place. As the days go on we will get better.

"Just getting the opportunity to come back out and play is all you can ask for. Last year, getting pretty much the whole baseball season taken away was disappointing, so getting the opportunity to start and hopefully ride the whole season out, is a blessing."

Atwood said there have been a lot of things the coaching staff has been pleased about in the week-plus they've been on the field, and there are things that need work.

Guzman, who will shift back to quarterback after playing receiver for two seasons, said although there is work to be done for the team to get up to speed condition-wise, he feels confident in his knowledge of the system.

"During the summer I went out and threw with the guys I could have," Guzman said. "I did what I could during the opportunities we had at the time. We did the best we could on our own. I feel like I know the whole playbook. I know what receivers and the linemen do on every play.

"Just knowing the whole system is going to be big for us."

Though the position is his this season, Guzman saw action behind center last season when Isaiah Aguilar was hampered by injury. Atwood said that experience will help as he guides the Coyotes offense this season.

"He did get a lot of practice reps the last two years," Atwood said. "Not very many game reps ... but the times he has gone in, he has performed well. We may look a little different this year, but that is more because of our personnel.

"This is a moment he has been itching for. He has done a great job thus far and we will see him continue to improve on a weekly basis. We know when the lights come on he makes plays."

Alice also returns running back R.J. Salaiz, who has been on varsity since he was a freshman. In addition to Alice's passing game, Salaiz and Guzman could give the Coyotes a stronger rushing attack this season.

All-district linebacker Jesus Sanchez (162 tackles), who Atwood called one of the best defenders in the district, said the speed of the defensive side of the ball will be one of the team's best strengths.

"We have a lot of speed on defense," Sanchez said. "I feel like we can all cover ground quickly, get straight to the ball and get him down before he gets any yards."

Alice's later start initially had them going straight into District 15-4A Division I play against No. 5 Miller, but Atwood decided to pick up a neutral site non-district game against Wimberley on Oct. 2.

ALICE COYOTES

Head coach: Kyle Atwood

District: 15-4A Division I

2019 record: 9-3 (5-2 in District 15-5A Division II)